You knew this post was coming, right? Our vacation was wonderful, but, of course, had its mishaps too. Some things worked great. Others, not so much. Here’s how it all went down.
We pre-paid our hotel almost a year ago through a time-share sales-pitch offer. We didn’t buy into their program, but ended up purchasing a one-week trial at any of their resorts. One happened to be in Orlando, where we knew we planned on going when Matt graduated. It ended up being about $115 a night, which was more than 50% off their regular nightly rates, and we LOVED it when we arrived. We had 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a full kitchen, washer/dryer, balcony over a lake and 3 pools, master suite… awesome. And it was 1-5 miles from any of of the Disney parks. So nice and so convenient. Clark said he wanted to live there.
So, anyway, when we got there and it was 70+degrees and our place was so nice, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. We spent the first day there just relaxing, eating a doughnut picnic at the Orlando temple, swimming in the hotel pool, reading books on the balcony, and grocery shopping.
I had a lot of pictures to share, but I can’t figure out how to get them all out of my camera (yep.), so I’ll just resort to some list making.
- beautiful weather
- The day after we arrived and were lounging at the hotel, ALL THREE of my kids took a nap. This I took as a really good omen from the vacation Gods that our trip was going to be fine.
- I bought all the food for the week’s breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, plus 2 dinners at the beginning of the week. This worked out great. We just packed a lunch and snacks every day in a cooler and hauled it around the parks in the bottom of our stroller. The kids earned “Disney dollars” from us before we left (for good behavior) and they used those to buy ice cream or snacks at the parks, but otherwise, we spent very little money on food.
- We left the parks early most nights (they close earlier off-season), and ate dinner at the hotel– either made it or did take-out. We stayed late one night at Epcot and ate our way around the World Showcase for dinner. That was really fun: Nachos in Mexico, chocolate in Germany, orange chicken and potstickers in China, pastries in France, etc.
- off-week for the parks, not very crowded, never waited in line for anything more than about 15 minutes.
- followed the strategies and tour plans in “The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World” book and seriously beat crowds and moved around the parks like we knew what we were doing.
- kids were well-behaved and we genuinely enjoyed ourselves.
- my mother-in-law joined us midweek and it was great to have some back-up help when Matt and I were starting to get a little tired.
- kids wore matching shirts every day and it was easy to keep track of them in a crowd (*disclaimer below)
- the park staff were so fun and friendly
- we were able to see/do everything we wanted in each park in a day.
- we did pin trading the last two days at Magic Kingdom and the kids had a blast doing that. We bought cheap starter pins, and Disney staff will trade you for any pin you want, so the kids were able to collect their favorite characters and pins by the end of the week.
- We never staked out parades or characters, but happened upon all of them and enjoyed watching. The kids were happy to see the characters without meeting them, so we avoided waiting in lines. (One exception: while the boys were on a roller coaster, we found a line in the back of a store to meet a princess. We waited for 15 minutes and Natalie was delighted when we turned the corner to find out she got to meet Cinderella, Belle, AND Sleeping Beauty. Imagine really cute pictures here.)
- The stroller was so helpful. We had a rider at all times and it kept the cooler, jackets, and our little first-aid kit always handy. There’s tons of stroller parking everywhere. I do still have sore muscles from five days of stroller pushing, though. I’m such a wimp.
- The Disney dollars thing worked great — fake money they earned with good behavior before the trip and during the trip– because the kids never asked us to buy them stuff. They could spend their own “money” on whatever they wanted and that kept them well reigned in since they didn’t have much. (** another disclaimer below)
- Every night back at the hotel, I ran a load of laundry, a load of dishes, and read Pride and Prejudice in bed until I fell asleep.
- Our progression of the parks worked really well: Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Magic Kingdom (two days).
- The whole week was busy and tiring, but still relaxing. We felt free of stress and enjoyed our time together.
NOT SO GREAT:
- On the first day at Hollywood Studios, Grant complained of ear pain and by the afternoon, his ear was draining. We took him to a minute clinic that night and he was diagnosed with double ear infections. Once we got the meds in him, all was well.
- Five days in a row at the Disney parks was a little much for us. If I were to do it over again, I would have done a 4-day pass and taken a day off for relaxing in the middle of the week. Now we know we can do a whole park in a day without a rush (at least in off-season with our tour strategies from that book). The kids held up pretty darn well, but Matt and I were feeling it in our legs and feet by the end.
- We lost Clark in the Magic Kindgom*. He left a store we were in on Main Street (Magic Kingdom) because he thought we had left. We could not find him for about 20 minutes and had to alert City Hall and their security team. He wandered way across the park all the way to the entrance of Toon Town, where he (finally) saw a worker, walked up to him and announced he was lost and showed him the “emergency band-aid” on his shoulder. (I wrote our phone numbers on a band-aid). They called us and we hiked over and found him by the popcorn stand where he’d turned himself in, waiting patiently with two workers. It was pretty frightening (for us), but they’ve got a great system in place there, despite the 30,000+ crowds that day, and they’ve never ever not found a lost child.
- Despite all our efforts of persuasion, they spent money** on dumb balloons that popped within 24 hours and glowing swords that induced several time-outs. I hate those expensive trinket things that amusement parks sell. It’s like kid heroin; they just HAVE to have it.
- Last day, last ride was Space Mountain (which we’d been on the day before, too). For some reason it was extra jerk and it really hurt my neck/head, so I had a migraine all the way home and tried not to puke. Luckily, it slept itself off by morning, so it was all good when it was time to get up for our …
- 6:00 a.m. flight home! I had to set our alarm for 3:15, which was a little insane, but it actually all worked out pretty smoothly. And it was nice to have the whole day at home to nap and recover.
The whole thing was great. We all agreed we enjoyed our trip to Disney World and we all wished we could have stayed longer. Now that I’m back to my cold and blustery homeland, I’m experiencing a wee bit of post-vacation, back-to-reality depression. And my children are going through typical post-vacation detox, but it was worth it. I love vacations. Can’t wait for the next one. I’d better start planning now. Any suggestions?
p.s. DeNae, this picture’s for you.